The distribution of Twitter follower counts

December 18, 2013

(This article was first published on Revolutions, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

My Twitter account @revodavid has, of this writing, 8828 followers. But is that below or above average amongst active Twitter accounts? Since Twitter doesn't publish statistics of follower counts, I've really had little idea. Until now, that is, because Jon Bruner has done some independent research to estimate the distribution of number of followers amongst active Twitter users

Bruner used R to take a random sample of 400,000 active Twitter handles (publicly-viewable accounts that have posted at least once in the last 30 days), and used R's ggplot2 package to plot a histogram of the number of followers for these accounts. The resulting plot should be pretty close to the empirical distribution of follower counts:


It's a very long-tailed distribution. Note the horizontal scale of that chart: fewer than 2% of Twitter active users have more than 2000 followers. Bruner provides many more details of his analysis at the link below, including a percentile chart of the followers distribution. Half of active twitter users have 61 followers or fewer, and as for me with 8848 followers: I fall somewhere between the 99 and 99.9% percentile. I'd love to get my hands on the data for further analysis (and hopefully the R code for the analysis will be posted to GitHub sometime soon).

O'Reilly Radar: Tweets loud and quiet

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